Media Literacy Skills Vital To Tackle Challenges Posed By New Media

kills in understanding, analysing and assessing content have become crucial components of media literacy in today's digital era.

This is due to the emergence of new media platforms (digital media) which, unlike conventional media, are devoid of responsible gatekeepers to determine what information should be disseminated.

Media literacy refers to the ability or skills to critically analyse the accuracy, credibility or evidence of bias in content created in various media, including radio and television, the Internet and social media.

Universiti Utara Malaysia School of Multimedia Technology and Communication Studies dean Associate Prof Dr Mohd Khairie Ahmad said in today’s borderless information scenario, anyone can create news material and disseminate it widely without any control.

“This situation raises questions about the authenticity and credibility of news released by new media. Therefore, the public needs to have the skills to evaluate information or news to ensure it is reliable,” he told Bernama.

On new media, he said it serves as a tool for disseminating information but more than that, it has become an important commodity in various sectors.

“(Therefore) media literacy (also) focuses on the ethical use of media and having (the necessary) skills to create content. Given the current situation, media literacy can also be considered as digital literacy, taking into account the ecosystem of new media,” he said.  



 According to Mohd Khairie, the concept of media literacy became a scholarly agenda in the 1960s. During that time, the use of mass media was associated with the social and psychological needs of society. It was also an essential tool in the nation-building process.

Later as the world transitioned to the information and communication era, a new perspective began to emerge for the media literacy agenda.

"Generally, media literacy exists among the Malaysian public, but it needs to be enhanced in line with the advancements in information and communication technology,” he said.

Universiti Utara Malaysia School of Multimedia Technology and Communication Studies dean Associate Prof Dr Mohd Khairie Ahmad.

According to a report by DataReportal on its website, Malaysia’s total Internet users stood at 33.59 million as of early 2024, with an Internet penetration rate of 97.4 percent.

The report also stated that 28.68 million Malaysians, or 83.1 percent of the population, were active social media users as of January 2024.

The report also cited an analysis by Kepios – a strategy consultancy that helps organisations all over the world to make sense of people’s evolving digital behaviours – showing that Malaysia’s Internet users increased by 357,000 (+1.1 percent) between January 2023 and January 2024.

Mohd Khairie said the above data means media usage skills do exist among Malaysian Internet users but the question here is whether they are able to analyse, evaluate and use media ethically.    

“For example, the local media reported that 36,030 online criminal cases involving losses totalling RM1.6 billion occurred in 2023. As for issues related to violation of ethics, 104 cases were investigated in the first nine months of 2023. The cases touched on issues concerning the monarchy, religion and race.

“Issues like these highlight the importance of having a high level of media literacy among the public so that things don’t get worse… to the extent of creating disharmony in our country,” he said.



Mohd Khairie believed that achieving media literacy collectively will be challenging if individuals fail to understand, delve into and practice it. He feels each netizen should practise self-censorship and refrain from sharing unverified news and information, and be vigilant at all times in order to create a healthier and more harmonious new media environment.   

He said currently, various software, web platforms and applications are available to verify the authenticity of content generated by new media. Among them is Bernama’s MyCheck Malaysia platform.

And, software such as Verify and Content Credentials can be used to assess whether artificial intelligence (AI) has been used in the production of digital content.

Bernama’s MyCheck Malaysia platform.

Mohd Khairie added efforts to teach the public to become more media literate need to be done systematically through the existing education framework, starting as early as the preschool stage.

He also suggested that a National Media Literacy Council be established.

“This council should be represented by various community organisations, public agencies and corporations. It will serve to advise and formulate actions in terms of policies, legislation and programmes to create an environment that is conducive to the well-being of the people in the digital era,” he added, noting that Singapore is among some of the nations that have implemented this initiative.



Meanwhile, Malaysian Cyber Consumers Association president Siraj Jalil said society’s increasing reliance on information sent out by new media – especially social media platforms – compared to mainstream media also contributes to the media literacy challenge.

He said Malaysians need to use social media applications more ethically because the lack of media literacy has led to the widespread dissemination of fake and inaccurate news through these platforms.

“Studies have indicated that people’s weakness in new media literacy has led to many controversial issues spreading widely, including those involving geopolitics and international relations.

“Also, weaknesses in monitoring and controlling new media content have exacerbated the situation. Contents that are toxic in nature and the increasing incidence of abuse (of social media) will have a negative impact on society and the country if not regulated by specific laws,” he said.

Malaysian Cyber Consumers Association president Siraj Jalil.

He said the proliferation of controversial issues on social media can be attributed to users, especially the elderly and less educated, lacking a proper understanding of how to use the new media platforms.

“Another issue is the diversity of the new media platforms, which requires different skills and approaches to assess the validity of their information because each platform has its own features and challenges,” he said.

Pointing to certain social media influencers, he said their attitude and lack of knowledge in media literacy are also contributing to the deluge of controversial issues on social media.



Siraj also said gaining media literacy requires a holistic approach involving education, public awareness through specific campaigns, law enforcement and cooperation among various parties to address the challenges posed by the diversity of today’s new media platforms.

Advising the public to be vigilant about cyber threats, he said technological advancements are at risk of being misused for purposes such as spreading false information and scamming the public, and for criminal activities.

“Fake information can spread like wildfire if the use of technology like ChatGPT or algorithms formed by AI is left uncontrolled,” he said.

(ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that uses a language model that can respond to questions and compose various written content.)

Pointing to ChatGPT, he said using it excessively can lead to over-dependency which can affect one’s critical thinking skills.

“It can have a negative impact on media literacy because users may wholly accept ChatGPT’s output without critically evaluating its validity,” he added.  

Siraj also said while not stated in scholarly studies, the use of ChatGPT to generate realistic content poses risks by opening opportunities for cyber threats such as identity theft, data breaches and privacy violations.

Citing an article titled “AI Systems Are Already Skilled At Deceiving And Manipulating Humans”, published on Science Daily’s website on May 10, 2024, he said among the issues raised in the article are the fraud risks posed by AI.

“ChatGPT has a large amount of data from various sources. It may be difficult for users to assess the validity of the information generated by the application because its sources are unclear.

“So, although ChatGPT has many potential benefits, its development must be controlled and monitored carefully to prevent it from being misused, as well as to address media literacy challenges and cyber threats,” he added.

He also said the government and relevant organisations should consider providing adequate financial allocations and resources for education programmes and media literacy campaigns as well as to introduce new policies and more comprehensive legislation related to media literacy and cyber security.


Translated by Rema Nambiar

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